Every manager, server, cook, and busser throughout the foodservice industry has seen it. Food waste. In an effort to meet demand and not run out, many restaurants buy and prepare too much food. Consequently, the excess food is thrown away. Wasted.
According to an analysis performed by the Green Restaurant Association a single restaurant can produce from 25,000 to 75,000 pounds of food waste each year. Similarly, a recent study from the Natural Resources Defense Council found that Americans throw away almost half of their food, amounting to $165 billion dollars wasted annually.
The strain of food waste on the environment is surprising. About 7% of greenhouse emissions come from food waste worldwide. And what about the land that is used to produce food that never gets eaten? According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the land devoted to producing wasted food would be the second-largest country in the world.
But why do we waste all this food? No one is excited to throw perfectly good food away, so why are doing it?
“One of the things we found in our research is that people are uncomfortable with white spaces when it comes to food,” said Dana Gunders, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We do not want to see empty space in our refrigerators, on our plates, etc.” More than this, our plates, refrigerators, and perceptions of “normal portion size” are increasing, as well.
While there are many grassroots efforts to overcome this monumental food waste issue, it is important to recognize that every establishment that serves food must combat this issue at a local level. Every restaurant decision-maker should be committed to preventing and eliminating food waste not just for the environment and public health, but for the bottom line, too.
Optimizing restaurant planning, portion size, and creating solutions to minimize food waste might seem like a never ending challenge in your restaurant or catering business, but equipped with the awareness of this ever increasing global problem, you are likely to get more involved. Start by taking baby steps, like those outlined below.
- Connect with a local charity, soup kitchen or shelter and regularly donate leftover prepared foods.
- Don’t over buy. It is better to run out than waste. Missing out on a few orders is better than buying an extra case that will likely go bad and be tossed.
- Use food scarcity to your advantage. When you run out of something, offer your disappointed guest a rain-check and capitalize on the opportunity to create a regular customer.
- Communicate your anti-food waste efforts to interested customers. Fighting food waste is a team effort.
- Offer smaller portion sizes on smaller plates.